Interview with George Fenton: What does "localization" of humanitarian aid mean in practice?

8 June 2017



Liz Arnanz: We are here today with George Fenton, the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Humanitarian Logistics Association, and we would like to ask him what – in his view – is “localization”.

George Fenton: The Humanitarian Logistics Association was set up in 2009 to work on professionalizing humanitarian logistics, and have it established as a recognized sector within the humanitarian industry.

Liz Arnanz: From the humanitarian logistics perspective, what does “localization” as a term mean for you?

George Fenton: So the HLA – as we call it – was intended to support logisticians working at the local level, at the field level, providing access to knowledge, guidance – signposting if you will – to training opportunities through which they can develop their careers. But also, [localization] is about working with local communities more effectively to prepare and respond to disasters.

Liz Arnanz: In logistics, the private sector is often quite involved, so how do you think the private sector can also contribute to “localization”? What is their role with all local actors in the field?

George Fenton: Very much, when there is a crisis – even if it is a man-made disaster, a conflict-related situation as we see in the Middle East right now – the private sector is crucial to be able to ensure that response can be made quickly. In many cases, the private sector is often the first responder or at least can support local actors – be they local government or authorities, local communities – in actually accessing the supplies, transport, etc. They need to be able to respond to people in most need.

Liz Arnanz: There are many challenges when trying to work with faith-based organizations in the field, and I was just thinking would you know what to say about how faith-based organizations could contribute to this new “localization” approach that we can see more and more in the field?

George Fenton: Of course, the many, many local communities have their own ways of worship accessing for example their church, church organizations, and church-based organizations at the local level; many of which are of course supported by large international organizations around the world. Many rules apply. So that global-to- local connection is valuable when it comes to supporting faith-based institutions, faith-based communities.

Liz Arnanz: What would you change in the humanitarian sector? What do you think it needs to be changed in general in the whole humanitarian sector in order to give more room to the “localization” approaches to deliver aid?

George Fenton: It’s a very good question, because just a couple of days ago, I organized an event where we brought together grassroots communities and volunteer groups, together with international aid organizations, to talk about what’s next for the humanitarian assistance, what is the next generation of humanitarian assistance going to look like over the next decade.